Brunei History Books

On this Sunday, I thought I will talk about history books of Brunei. Someone mentioned the Hussainmiya book on my post on the History Centre's publication Jurnal Darussalam.

Hussainmiya wrote three books so far, one is a semi-autobiography of our 28th Sultan, Sultan Haji Omarali Saifuddin published in 1995 entitled "Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III and Britain: The Making of Brunei Darussalam", the second entitled "The Brunei Constitution: An Inside History" published in 2000 and the very recent one entitled "Brunei: A Revival of 1906" on the issue of the 1906 Agreement between Brunei and the British. For those who do not have prior or little knowledge of Brunei history, the books are well written and will give you all you need to know about what happened since 1906. However I would term the books more on the line of what is termed by Graham Sauders, now a Professor at Hull University but used to be a History teacher in Brunei, 'the official Brunei history'. You will not learn much things new from Hussainmiya's books apart from what has been officially written despite the very detailed explanation. Bottom line, I enjoyed his books but I do wish for a far more critical and independent assessments.

There are many other historians who have written books, though the focus tended to be more on the MIB side of things rather than the pure history. For a sampling of other history writings, you can get various takes written by other historians which I have put up on the main library.

If you want to know more about Brunei's modern history especially after the second world war, three not so recent books (in Malay) are interesting reads. One written by Dr Hj Zaini Hj Ahmad's "Pertumbuhan Nasionalisme di Brunei (1939 – 1962)" (2004) and the other, Pehin Dato Dr Hj Jamil's "8hb Disember Dalangnya Siapa" (2004). Both focused on the post nationalist sentiment after the second world war up to the event of 1962. A third is Dr Hj Zaini's earlier book based on his University of Malaya's 1996 PhD thesis entitled "Brunei Merdeka: Sejarah dan Budaya Politik" (2003), again more or less on the same subject matter.

Another book written by TS Monks entitled "Brunei Days" (1992) is also very interesting from the point of view of how the modern Brunei Government started after the second world war. 'Tuan Besar Monks' was part of the original British Military Administration (BMA) taking over from the Japanese immediately after the second world war. The first three, you might just be able to find in the Malay bookstores such as Mega Bookshop or Pustaka Remaja but the last one is almost impossible to find, I bought mine for about $37 but the last time I saw it on the internet, the price has gone to about US$210.

Another book which is on the almost crazy price lists is "A History of Brunei" written by Professor Saunders. This book was published earlier and was available in Brunei in the early 1990s for around $40. I bought one but someone borrowed it and never returned it. It was updated sometimes in 2002 and now being sold at a price of US$150. I bought one from Singapore at about $250 very recently. This book writes about the history of Brunei with the warts and all. You get to read the times in our history when things do not go so well as well as the good times. It's quite a controversial book from certain points of views. It's a pity that this book is no longer availabel in this country.

Another older book which is not even in publication now but will cost a fair bit if you can find it is written by Ranjit singh with the self explained title "Brunei, 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival". Have fun searching for the books and happy reading.


Anonymous said…
You forgot to mention, james bartholomew - 'the richest man in the world' or maybe you left it out on purpose. oh and Fifa 192 was a good read as well.
Anonymous said…
zh, i don't think those books you mentioned are exactly history books, in the serious category as the books mentioned in Mr. BR's blog.
Anonymous said…
try "The Genesis of Konfrontasi" by greg poulgrain :)So and by far the most interesting and illuminating book of brunei modern political history.

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